Do we need bhikkhu sangha for bhikkhuni ordination?
The first batch of bhikkhunis to be ordained in Buddhist history received ordination from the bhikkhu sangha. This was allowed by the Buddha as we found in Cullavagga, Vinaya Pitaka.
Apart from Maha Pajapati, ordination of bhikkhunis were done always by the bhikkhu sangha.
This practice continued on for sometimes until there was a case of a woman who did not clarify herself of the 24 disqualifications (antarayikadhamma). The monks could not proceed on with the proper ordination procedure. The case was brought to the attention of the Buddha. As it was reported that the candidate was too shy to answer the questions regarding disqualification .
The Buddha understood and was very practical, he suggested to bring in bhikkhunis to perform this part of questioning the candidate.
So for the first time the bhikkhunis were brought in to perform the preliminary part of the ordination procedure.
After having clarified the candidate of her purification on the 24 points of disqualification, then the candidate is brought to the bhikkhu sangha for upasampada ( full ordination).
However, sometimes the candidates were still found clumsy in front of the bhikkhu sangha. To make sure that the bhikkhuni who gives training to the candidates must be knowledgable and well versed in the Vinaya, the bhikkhuni teacher must received appointment from the bhikkhu sangha, she must have at least 12 years standing as bhikkhuni, thus she becomes pavattini. One who is not appointed but give training to the candidates will go against apatti (transgression).
To make sure that the candidates will not face difficulty once they approach the bhikkhu sangha for ordination, the bhikkhuni sangha give them training as rehearsal to the actual ordination among the bhikkhuni sangha.
However, the rehearsal is limited to answering of the 24 points of disqualification, then the bhikkhuni sangha accept the candidate to the sangha.
This purification and act of acceptance to the bhikkhuni sangha is considered upasampada by the bhikkhuni sangha.
Thus when the candidate is brought in front of the bhikkhu sangha, the bhikkhuni kammavacacarya makes announcement saying that the candidate is pure of the disqualifications and that she is ordained by one sangha (bhikkhuni sangha).
The ordination by the bhikkhu sangha is much shorter as the candidate has already finished the purification part with the bhikkhuni sangha. The bhikkhu kammavacacarya simply makes announcement to the bhikkhu sangha 3 times as to the intention of the candidate, and if the bhikkhu sangha has no objection, they should remain silent.
The bhikkhu sangha remain silent, meaning having no objection, thus the bhikkhu who is acting as kammavacacarya further makes pronouncement that the candidate is accepted as bhikkhuni by the bhikkhu sangha.
Thus the candidate is considered having received upasampada (full ordination) by bhikkhu sangha.
The act of acceptance in the bhikkhu sangha is the final stage of bhikkhuni ordination. In the history of ordination, it is this part that is final.
To answer the question posted at the beginning, yes, it is important that there must be bhikkhu sangha to witness and to finalize the bhikkhuni ordination.
An ordination of bhikkhuni without bhikkhu sangha will not be considered valid.
When I was appointed as Pavattini on Nov.29,2014 by Most Venerable Maha Nayaka Mahindavamsa in front of 20 bhikkhus and 12 bhikkhunis, some people thought from then on I can give ordination to bhikkhunis. Thus, I need to share my understanding on the bhikkhuni ordination with larger audience.
As to this date, this is my understanding on the bhikkhuni ordination.
April 19, 2016
Note: I performed my role as pavattini first time on Jan.30,2016 giving ordination to 3 Thai bhikkhunis At Sakyadhita center, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Most Venerable Mahindavamsa is Maha Nayaka of Amarapura, he is an abbot of both Dipaduttamaramaya in Colombo and also Wasakaduve temple outside Colombo. Previously Ven.Subhuti, a very renown Sri Lankan scholar monk was an abbot of Wasakadeve temple. Prince Prisdang, son of King Rama III was first ordained as samanera at this temple. Later he became abbot of Dipaduttamaramaya temple also.